ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Yearly Archive: 2019

Sunday

19

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 19, 2019

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Elections

““Since 2012, I have advocated tirelessly to empower our communities and make them safer,” she said in a statement Saturday. “But the work is not done. I am proud to announce that I will run to represent District 1 on the county commission.” Fulton announced Saturday that she would launch her campaign for the District 1 seat, which will be relinquished in 2020 by the term-limited Commissioner Barbara Jordan. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert is also running for the seat, one of five up for grabs after Miami-Dade voters approved a two-term limit for the 13-member board in 2012. Miami Gardens is the biggest city in District 1.” Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, will run for Miami-Dade County Commission (by Martin Vassolo for the Miami Herald)

Gun Violence

“Eubanks was 17 at the time of the Columbine shooting, according to CNN affiliate KMGH.
He was in the library with his friends, trying to decide whether they were going to go fishing or play golf after school, when they heard the sound of gunshots. “A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock,” Eubanks told CNN last year.” Columbine survivor Austin Eubanks found dead at 37 (by Amir Vera for CNN)

Homophobia

“But Kessem was about to become the latest victim of a government policy that effectively de-recognizes her parents’ marriage, granting her no automatic rights to American birthright citizenship despite the fact that both her fathers are U.S. citizens. That policy, Kessem’s fathers told The Daily Beast, poses a unique threat to LGBT families, and could change the decades-old legal understanding of what the word “family” even means. “This is a very clear attack on families, on American families,” Roee, who married Adiel in California in 2013, told The Daily Beast. “Denying American married couples their rights to pass their citizenship, that is flat-out discrimination, and everyone should be concerned about this.”” Trump Administration to LGBT Couples: Your ‘Out of Wedlock’ Kids Aren’t Citizens (by Scott Bixby for Daily Beast)

Reproductive Health

What is going on in the US is misogynistic and horrible. If you want to fight back, here are a couple of options:

National Network of Abortion Funds

Stop Abortion Bans

Something Good

Excellent.

 

Sunday

12

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 12 May 2019

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Reproductive Health

“Helmi Henkin—chair of the clinic escort group West Alabama Clinic Defenders and Alabama’s only statewide abortion fund, the Yellowhammer Fund—witnessed the incident, called police, and uploaded a picture of the driver’s car to her social media accounts for people to share. “She is fine now, but we were just really emotionally overwhelmed by the incident,” Henkin told Rewire.News.” In Alabama, an Anti-Choice Protester Tried to Run Over an Abortion Clinic Escort (by Auditi Guha for Rewire.News)

“David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “The Deuce,” said in a tweet on Thursday that his company Blown Deadline’s “assessments of locations for upcoming development will pull Georgia off the list until we can be assured the health options and civil liberties of our female colleagues are unimpaired.” “I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies,” Simon said.” Two production companies pledge to pull filming from Georgia over strict anti-abortion law (by Aris Folley for The Hill)

“The primary purpose of HB 481 is to prohibit doctors from terminating any pregnancy after they can detect “embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” which typically occurs at six weeks’ gestation. But the bill does far more than that. In one sweeping provision, it declares that “unborn children are a class of living, distinct person” that deserves “full legal recognition.” Thus, Georgia law must “recognize unborn children as natural persons”—not just for the purposes of abortion, but as a legal rule.” Georgia Just Criminalized Abortion. Women Who Terminate Their Pregnancies Would Receive Life in Prison. (by Mark Joseph Stern for Slate)

“The long and short is, though, I got to a point of wanting to get sterilized because I wanted to a.) stop being told by doctors what I actually wanted, and b.) be able to say “see, now I CAN’T change my mind, so what else have you got to say about it?” People take this choice—one that doesn’t impact them in even any mild way!—really personally. They view it as a judgement of their own choices. And honestly, after doing All Of The Thinking about it for the last, oh, third of my life, I’m kind of done dealing with it. I’m done walking judgemental busybodies through it and justifying it and thinking about it myself.” I Got My Tubes Tied at 31. Here’s What I Learned (by Hanna Brooks Olsen via Medium)

Sexual Assault

“If the Senate Judiciary Committee, led then by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed that its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have begun in 1991 — with the support of the government. If the government had shown that it would treat survivors with dignity and listen to women, it could have had a ripple effect. People agitating for change would have been operating from a position of strength. It could have given institutions like the military, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission greater license to take more decisive action to end the scourge of harassment. And research shows that if leaders convey that they won’t tolerate harassment, people within an organization typically obey.” Anita Hill: Let’s Talk About How to End Sexual Violence (by Anita Hill for The New York Times)

Gender Essentialism in Sport

“The controversy surrounding Semenya echoes the broader media treatment of intersex athletes. The argument being made against Semenya is the same one that was made about Indian runner Dutee Chand, and Spanish hurdler Maria José Martínez-Patiño before that. While transgender and intersex are not the same thing, they’re often conflated in public discussion. (“Transgender” is a term used to describe somebody who was assigned one gender at birth but identifies with and will often medically transition to another. “Intersex” is a term used to describe any number of medical conditions where someone is born with characteristics outside of the typical male and female binary, ranging from the noticeable to the invisible.) The terms were confused last week when Fox News reporter Carley Shimkus incorrectly referred to Semenya as “a transgender Olympic runner” during an episode of Fox & Friends. Shimkus apologized the following day.” Caster Semenya, and the myth of the uneven playing field (by Parker Molloy for Columbia Journalism Review)

School Shootings

“The words were familiar to 15-year-old Duarte, who has participated in nearly 50 active shooter drills in the five years she’s been a student at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a few miles away from Columbine High School. Only this time, it wasn’t a drill. Two students opened fire on their classmates on Tuesday, killing one and injuring eight others before they were taken into custody.” This Is What It Sounds Like Hiding In A Dark Classroom During A School Shooting (by Tasneem Nashrulla for Buzzfeed)

Something Good

Singer / Songwriter / Podcast host Jenny Owens Young occasionally writes songs for A Cast of Kings, an unofficial Game of Thrones Podcast. The latest is a bit of an ear worm and I like it. (Spoilers, obviously): The Long Night

 

 

Monday

6

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

 

Best for:
People looking for hard facts on how the lack of data collected about women harms us.

In a nutshell:
Much of ruling society treats (cis) men as the default, dismissing the needs of women as abnormal. This screws us over.

Worth quoting:
“Like so many of the decisions to exclude women in the interests of simplicity, from architecture to medical research, this conclusion could only be reached in a culture that conceives of men as the default human and women as a niche aberration.”

Why I chose it:
I wanted some hard facts to support something I was already generally aware of.

Review:
I really struggled with picking up this book. Normally I wouldn’t because the topics is right up my alley. It’s non-fiction. It’s written by a woman. It talks about sexism. It focuses on statistics and data. That’s my jam! Except the author is a problematic feminist and I hate that she is the one who wrote this book, because she has a real problem with the idea of cis women (she wants to be called woman by default, not a cis woman, necessarily othering trans women. Oh the irony). Which means this book never once gives even a sidebar mention of the fact that some of the data gaps she is focused on are even worse for trans women. She also quotes a transphobic woman (Sarah Ditum) in the first few pages. I wish she were a better on this, but here we are.

The fact is, she has written an interesting and easy-to-read book that should piss everyone off. From data gaps about unpaid care work and women’s contributions to the economy to the fact that women metabolize and react to medications differently than men (but are often barely represented in studies — if they are included at all), she looks at the literally hundreds of ways that society places the needs of men in general above the needs of women in general, and the impact it has on how we navigate the world.

Obviously this requires some generalizations. For example, many of the areas focus on women’s role as caretaker, specifically as a mother. I’m not a mother and never will be, so I don’t fit in that realm. But I recognize that overwhelmingly most women will at some point have a child, so I appreciate that not taking that into account will harm many, many women.

Some were areas I’d been aware of before, though not in this level of detail. But other things were light-bulb moments. Early on in the book she talks about the planning of public space and public transportation, and some of the revelations were, looking back, obvious, but also so insidious as to not have occurred to me before.

The focus on the average man’s life experience as the default informs so many decisions in our world, and that means women get left out, left behind, and actively harmed. And the solution is to collect — and the use — more data, but there’s a problem there, as the gatekeepers for things like funding scientific studies are overwhelmingly dudes, and they don’t see the need for studying women-specific issues, or even disaggregating data by sex or gender.

There aren’t easy solutions that corporations and governments are just going to accept and implement. My biggest take-away from this is to be alert to any new studies I read that generalize about people, and to be an outspoken advocate to ensure that new initiatives at the government level have taken into account the lives not just of men, but of women, as well as people in other demographic groups.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it.

Sunday

5

May 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – May 5, 2019

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Bigotry in Sport

“No matter what her personal medical history is, her story illustrates the way people, especially people of color, can be scrutinized when they seem to fall outside gender norms. Being intersex is not the same as being trans, but society at large tends to conflate the two, Pagonis said. “And a lot of people hate trans people.” Meanwhile, “I see a lot of intersex phobia that is heightened because she’s a black woman,” Pagonis added. “Had Caster been a gender-conforming, straight-identified white girl who just was faster than the other people, they would have never invaded her body” by demanding testing, they said.” “I am a woman and I am fast”: what Caster Semenya’s story says about gender and race in sports (by Anna North for Vox)

“Alternatively, the IAAF could consider the road it has not yet travelled: engage in educational efforts aimed at promoting informed discussion, allaying fears of the unknown and promoting understanding as a viable alternative to exclusion. In other words, the IAAF could take the lead in creating a sporting environment in which it becomes possible to truly recognise women with high testosterone as the “humans, daughters, and sisters” that our president, Seb Coe, claims them to be at the same time as he denies their right to participate.” I was sore about losing to Caster Semenya. But this decision against her is wrong (by Madeleine Pape for The Guardian)

““There is no such thing as a standard level of testosterone in a woman’s body,” the doctor explained to i.“A lot of women can be affected by higher than average levels of testosterone. “They can have too little energy or libido, or too much hair and too many mood swings because of conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome or pre-menstrual syndrome, that affects millions of women.” Doctor ‘wouldn’t prescribe’ the hormone suppressants IAAF demands for Caster Semenya (by Jasmine Andersson for i news)

Public Health

“We have been listening to the alerts from the Pan American Health Organization. There are outbreaks of measles [in the United States] largely because persons have not taken the vaccine,” Fredericks-James said. The outbreak comes amid an alarming number of measles diagnoses in the U.S., with 704 cases already reported this year in 22 states — the most in 25 years. It’s an astonishing uptick for a disease that was declared eradicated in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000.” Scientology Ship Quarantined in St. Lucia After Measles Diagnosis (by Seth Abramovitch for The Hollywood Reporter)

Racism in Policing

“The report on the New Year’s Eve killing, which sparked national police accountability protests, was disclosed this week following journalists’ requests under a new California police transparency law. The previously sealed internal file, written 10 years ago, documented how the Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) officer Anthony Pirone “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting”. Pirone called Grant the N-word while detaining him, hit him in the face in an “unprovoked” attack, and later gave a series of false statements contradicted by videos, investigators said.” Officer punched Oscar Grant and lied about facts in 2009 killing, records show (by Sam Levin for The Guardian)

The Patriarchy Harms Everyone

“The idea of an “emotional gold digger” was first touched on in 2016 by writer Erin Rodgers with a tweet that continues to be re-posted on social media—both by women who married self-described feminist men, and by those with more conservative husbands. It has gained more traction recently as women, feeling increasingly burdened by unpaid emotional labor, have wised up to the toll of toxic masculinity, which keeps men isolated and incapable of leaning on each other. Across the spectrum, women seem to be complaining about the same thing: While they read countless self-help books, listen to podcasts, seek out career advisors, turn to female friends for advice and support, or spend a small fortune on therapists to deal with old wounds and current problems, the men in their lives simply rely on them.” Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden (by Melanie Hamlett for Harper’s Bazaar)

Something Good

If you enjoy Game of Thrones, check out the deep dive recaps every Thursday:  Game of Thrones ‘The Long Night’ Deep Dive Recap (by Lord Castleton for Pajiba)

Sunday

28

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

Midlife by Kieran Setiya

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those who enjoy a philosophical approach to things, and those who are approaching middle age.

In a nutshell:
Philosopher Kieran Setiya, as he approached mid-life, decided to explore ways philosophy might help him power through — or even stave off — a crisis.

Worth quoting:
“I recognize the luxury of the midlife crisis, with a degree of guilt and shame. Why can’t I be more grateful for what I have? But this is my life.”
“There is consolation in the fact that missing out is an inexorable side effect of the richness of human life.”
“There is no more to going for a walk than what you are doing right now. You are not on the way to achieving a goal. You are already there.”

Why I chose it:
I’m turning 40 next year and I enjoy studying philosophy.

Review:
This fairly short exploration of mid-life is lightly humorous and well-written. Author Setiya is approaching 40 and has started to feel what many do when they approach mid-life: a sense of malaise. As he is a philosophy professor, he is, one could argue, fairly well-suited to explore the larger questions around life and what it means as we continue into the second half of our lives.

And I think he is. This is a largely successful book if one is looking not so much for all the answers, but for some ideas of how to change one’s thinking about this time in life. Setiya looks at the big issues that crop up around middle age: regret / paths not taken; fear of death; and wondering what to do next when you’ve completed most of the standard life projects.

The section on regret is interesting, as it forces a rational approach to the issue. Namely, that even if you could start over and do things completely differently, that would mean wiping out who you are now. Do you really want that? Do any of us? Sure, it’s understandable to spend some time wondering about different choices, but you can’t do anything about it. I found this section … not that helpful for me. I don’t have large life regrets or anything like that (though I’ve gone back-and-forth on career choices basically since leaving university) but I don’t think I followed Setiya’s process here.

The fear of mortality section was also a bit of a challenge for me, as his main point seemed to be (if I’m understanding it) that we shouldn’t focus on not being around after death because we weren’t around before birth, and they’re ultimately the same thing. There’s also something here about putting more emphasis on the future than the past, but I had some trouble following it.

The section I found most helpful was the one dealing with the challenges of what happens when you’ve met most of the life goals society sets out for us. For me, that included going to university, meeting a life partner, and buying a home, all of which I’ve done. What happens after that? What about all the other projects we work on, that are also bound to finish (like, hopefully, my book)? What do we do then? Setiya’s suggestion is we focus on all the things that are not bound by a start an end, instead looking at the process. His example is enjoying a walk for the walk’s sake. Not because we are using it as a means to an end. That is a way of thinking that I could definitely incorporate into my daily life.

Overall, would I recommend it to my peers? Eh, probably not, but mostly because I think it’s a little heavier on the philosophy than they’d like.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it

Sunday

28

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – April 28, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

US Elections

“Elizabeth Warren has been out there quietly releasing policy proposal after policy proposal, and many of them have been ignored because the media (and that includes ourselves) is often more preoccupied with the horse race, with who is scoring points on social media, or who is speaking seven languages on a late-night talk show. Folks, don’t sleep on Elizabeth Warren, and I’ll tell you why: She released a policy proposal this morning that, for millions of people in the United States, would change everything.”  Elizabeth Warren Has Released a Game-Changing Policy Proposal (by Dustin Rowles for Pajiba)

“But Ms. Hill says the call from Mr. Biden left her feeling deeply unsatisfied. In a lengthy telephone interview on Wednesday, she declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s words to her as an apology and said she was not convinced that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings — or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence.” Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse for The New York Times)

Reproductive Health

“Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provides: ‘All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’” the opinion states. “We are now asked: Is this declaration of rights more than an idealized aspiration? And, if so, do the substantive rights include a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, including the decision whether to continue her pregnancy? We answer these questions, ‘Yes.’” In Historic Ruling, Kansas Supreme Court Declares Abortion Rights ‘Fundamental’ (by Jessica Mason Pieklo for Rewire.News)

Elitism

“Not only does this disrespect the parents and their desire to advocate for their community and their children, but it also weakens the strength of whatever community does desire to come together around these children. As Brown rightly acknowledges, a child’s parents are always their first teachers. But we must acknowledge that children benefit from being protected and guided by the largest village possible — and undermining that by discouraging parents from showing up because they aren’t dressed according to an antiquated view of what “respectable” looks like only reduces the variety of positive influences that can change a child’s future. It also demeans the voices and contributions of the parents who are there, implying that they can only be seen as valuable if they dress a certain way.” A Houston school’s dress code for parents teaches kids sexism, elitism and intolerance, not respect (by Erika Nicole Kendall for NBC Think)

Homelessness

“These priorities are not just antithetical to their claims of being a nonpartisan group, they are the exact same conservative priorities being pushed by Safe Seattle. When viewed together, all of this evidence makes it clear that Speak Out Seattle is misleading voters and candidates about how their organization came to be, and lying about the conservative, anti-homeless nature of the group itself.” How Conservative Anti-Homeless Groups Are Rebranding To Recruit New Members (by Matt Watson via Medium)

LGBTQ

I Came Out Late in Life. And That’s Okay.

Something Vaguely Spoilery from Avengers: Endgame

“I’m dedicated to supporting everyone who wants to remain spoiler-free until Endgame. I was desperate to avoid even the shadow of a spoiler before I saw the movie. But I think it’s important to talk about one aspect of characterization that occurs in the film (I won’t reveal plot specifics). Several reviews have mentioned this in passing, so I feel like it’s fair game. Enough people I know are upset over it already due to leaks and early screenings, and I’m angrier by the minute. If I can spare even one person the surprise and dismay I felt with this advance warning, it’s worth it.” There’s a Seriously Problematic Depiction of a Character in Avengers: Endgame (by Kaila Hale-Stern for The Mary Sue)

Labor Exploitation

“Although contract staff were paid overtime, developers report a culture of fear, in which they were expected to pull long hours as part of their job. Some reported suffering health issues after working consecutive months of 70-hour weeks. Crunch is the name given to working intense overtime, sometimes for stretches that last weeks or months. In the game industry specifically, it was generally associated with the period leading up to a game’s launch. But in the age of early access releases, post-launch updates, downloadable content, and games as a service, crunch can be a constant problem.” How Fortnite’s success led to months of intense crunch at Epic Games (by Colin Campbell for Polygon)

Something Good

Yes. ‘13 Going on 30′ Turns 15: Celebrate by Admitting It’s a Better Film Than ‘Big’ (by Anna Menta for Decider)

Friday

26

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

No. More. Plastic. by Martin Dorey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People looking for concrete steps to take to reduce plastic consumption individually and at the societal level.

In a nutshell:
The man who founded the two-minute beach clean-up offers tips for plastic use reduction.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I saw this in a shop while on a vacation near the sea, so it seemed like an appropriate (and quick) read.

Review:
Just over a week ago the Extinction Rebellion actions stepped up in London. The bridge by my office was occupied for a week; trains were affected, streets were blocked, and peaceful protesters engaged in civil disobedience to try to get politicians to pay attention to the serious issue of climate change and human impact on the environment. That was near the top of my mind when I came across this book. I’m doing a fairly good job with my carbon footprint; I don’t eat meat, I’m not having children. I no longer own a car, and when I did, both my partner and I still walked to work or took the bus. We do, however, live 6,000 miles from where we grew up, which means we do take long-haul flights once or twice a year.

And we also use plastic. It’s ubiquitous plastic is, especially here in the UK. The thing that baffles me the most is that nearly every bit of fresh fruit or vegetable is wrapped in plastic. Cucumbers are shrink-wrapped. Zucchini are wrapped three to a pack. Heads of lettuce aren’t that common; bags of lettuce, however, are everywhere. Broccoli crowns are shrink-wrapped. Avocado are in plastic trays. It’s BANANAS. I agree with the author here when he says it is gobsmackingly ridiculous that it is legal to sell food in packaging that cannot be recycled.

This book offers a bunch of ideas (some extremely practical, some not so much) and steps to take to reduce plastic consumption. Some I’ve done recently – buying a glass reusable water bottle and reusable coffee cup for my commute – but others are things I need to do. Each of the 30 tips are discussed in detail across one or two pages, but there is a checklist at the back so readers can keep track of their progress.

The reason this book only has three stars is it seems written in a vacuum that doesn’t acknowledge the impact of some of these suggested changes on people. For example, this guy is gung-ho on eliminating plastic straws. Now, this isn’t a thick book, nor does it contain much of a narrative. But it’s well-documented that flexible plastic straws are a necessity for some disabled people. Same for wipes, which are other things Dorey says we need to give up (or at least not flush). It would be good for society to find alternatives for people who need them, and educate people who DON’T need them to STOP USING THEM. But othering disabled people by making the request them separately or incur the added cost of buying them isn’t a solution I’m okay with.

Another suggestion is to avoid supermarkets and go to direct sources that use less packaging, like greengrocers, butchers, bakers, etc. Great idea. But if those are spread out across town, that’s a large time-suck for some people who may not have the time to give. And what about the added carbon of driving to multiple locations?

And then there’s this: “Shop as usual but leave all the packaging at the till and let the supermarket know why you’re doing it.” I’m sorry, what? You want the staff person who is likely not paid a great wage to have to clean up the mess you make with your purchases? No. Don’t do that. Talk to the manager. Get lots of people together to talk to the manager. Buy things that are not packaged and don’t buy things packaged in plastic. But don’t put it on the lowest paid staff member to deal with your actions.

It’s complicated, and makes me think about the end of Season 3 of The Good Place – things are complicated, and it can be hard to make the best, most ethical decision. And sometimes an individual doing something means very little if there isn’t a larger plan of action associated with it.

But sometimes it isn’t that complicated; sometimes you really can pay more attention and make better choices. I think, on the whole, the book is one way to help me do that.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Wednesday

24

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Life of Stuff by Susannah Walker

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
People who find meaning in true stories, quality narratives, and learning about the human condition.

In a nutshell:
Author Susannah Walker’s mother was not always there for her. Upon Patricia’s death, Susannah sees that she’s been hoarding, allowing her home to fall into disrepair, and takes it as a chance to try to get to know her mother’s story.

Worth quoting:
“There had to be thousands of daughters like me who didn’t have a proper relationship with their mothers, but we would never be able to speak up and find each other, because the world was our policeman, always judging us.”
“So much of what my mother accumulated — all those plastic bags and envelopes of junk mail — didn’t have any significance of their own. Their job was to bury the objects that did, to prevent the terrifying misery of the past from ever being discovered again.”

Why I chose it:
I was in a bookshop in a new city. Obviously I was going to get something. I’d also been looking for a book with a more narrative voice but didn’t have any fiction in mind. This was a perfect fit.

Review:
Author Susannah Walker studied and worked at one of the most interesting (in my opinion) museums in the world – the V & A in London. She’s fully aware of how we as a society choose to collect items as a way to better understand — or at least keep alive — our histories. So it makes sense that she would approach her mother’s death and hoarding in the way she did: through her mother’s things.

Each chapter begins with an illustration of an object from her mother’s home, and includes some text that you would expect to see next to an item in the museum. That object then frames the discussion of the chapter. We start with Patricia falling in her home and being taken to the hospital, then Walker receiving a shaming phone call from a police officer. Her mother seemed to be improving enough to leave the hospital but couldn’t return to her home which was, in addition to being filled with items, in disrepair, with a broken and open back door, no running water or functioning toilet, and mildew and dampness everywhere. As Walker worked to convince hospital staff that a nursing home would be the best next step, Patricia died, leaving Susannah to sort through what remained.

Patricia and Walker’s father divorced with Walker was young, and she and her brother went to live with their father, only seeing their mother occasionally. They weren’t fully estranged though; Walker still spoke to Patricia regularly, and met up with her for lunch. But they were not close, as Walker always felt unloved. How could a mother sort of abandon her child? And how could a grown child not see that her mother was in such a condition that lead to this hoarding?

Walker takes the opportunity to explore her mother’s life as she sifts through her belongings, and it’s ultimately a sad life, full of loss. As Walker peels back the layers in the house, she also peels back a bit more about her mother’s life, learning more about events in the distant past. Walker lost a sibling on the day she was born; her mother also lost a sibling. Divorce spans generations of the family, and loss seems to be everywhere.

Some of the best parts of the book were Walker’s research into hoarding and how society chooses to classify and exploit the stories of hoarders. She points out that so much focus is on the brain chemistry of hoarders and not nearly enough on what really precipitates their actions: namely, often, a profound sense of loss.

Walker is an engaging writer and storyteller; I was on holiday and read the book over the course of just three days. I didn’t want to put it down. Not because there was anything especially urgent, but because I cared about Walker and her mother and all the people who have experienced loss and found themselves acting the way Patricia did. And I felt for everyone who has complicated relationships with their parents, especially when that parent has died, leaving the relationship unresolved. I’m not keeping it only because I don’t imagine I’ll want to reread it, but I will donate it so someone else can experience it.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it

Sunday

21

April 2019

0

COMMENTS

Bullsh*t Jobs by David Graeber

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in labor issues and economic theory.

In a nutshell:
Some jobs don’t serve a purpose. They’re usually paid fairly well, but they don’t need to exist. Why do we as a society allow these jobs to exist, and what are they doing to the people who hold them?

Worth quoting:
“We can probably conclude that at least half of all work being done in our society could be eliminated without making any real difference at all.”
“The underlying assumption is that if humans are offered the option to be parasites, of course they’ll take it. In face, almost every bit of available evidence indicates that this is not the case.”
“How does it come to seem morally wrong to the employer that workers are not working, even if there is nothing obvious for them to do?”

Why I chose it:
It looked kind of interesting. And it was! Kind of.

Review:
There is a lot going on in this book, and while the author tries to make it accessible and interesting, it sometimes falls a bit more into the academic text realm than I’d prefer. Additionally, despite the academic appearance, so much of the data supporting the theory is qualitative, which isn’t bad per se, but there isn’t enough quantitative support for the broad statements Graeber offers.

The book grows from an essay on the topic Graeber wrote a few years back for a labor magazine. The premise is that there are many jobs out there that don’t actually need to exist, but do, and at times even pay quite well. He’s interested in exploring not only what this does to the workers who hold these positions, but what it means for society that we all just allow these jobs to exist. Capitalism suggests that such positions will be eliminated as inefficient, but still they persist. Why is that?

Graeber takes us through a quick history of labor in exchange for money, spending a fair bit of time on the concept (relatively new, apparently) that our bosses / companies are paying us for our time as opposed to our work. The idea of not being able to do something personal when you finish your work but are still ‘on the clock’ would have been odd until fairly recently, according to the author. But now we see people having to create work that doesn’t exist to fill their time.

The author spends the first chapters of the book developing a definition of bullshit jobs, which I appreciate. These aren’t shitty jobs, as those ones so ofter serve a purpose. No, these are the jobs that perhaps are middle management, or ‘box tickers.’ He ultimately offers five different categories, and support for them using anecdotes from people who contacted him after his original essay was published.

I want to have gotten more out of this book. I definitely appreciated his argument, especially as it relates to the idea that we all could be working less but our values won’t allow it. But I didn’t finish it feeling as though I had much that I could do. I have to admit to skimming the last chapter where that information would be; at that point my eyes had started to glaze over. I don’t think the book is bad, but maybe it’d be better placed in a serious book club or a course on labor studies.

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What I’m Reading – April 21, 2019

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Impacts of the Trump Administration

““After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking,” the report reads. “According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an ‘inside job,’ and purported to have ‘physical proof’ that Russians did not give materials to Assange.” Thursday’s long-anticipated release adds new details about Assange’s interactions with the officers in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate. Still, it leaves one question unanswered: Why was Assange so determined to exonerate the Russian intelligence agents who gave him the material?” Mueller Report: Assange Smeared Seth Rich to Cover for Russians (by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast)

“To ignore a president’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways,” Ms. Warren wrote on Twitter. Elizabeth Warren Calls for Impeachment Process Against Trump (by Astead W. Hampton for The New York Times)

“The world’s five deadliest countries for journalists include three — India, Mexico and, for the first time, the United States — where journalists were killed in cold blood, even though those countries weren’t at war or in conflict, the group said. “The hatred of journalists that is voiced … by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.” United States added to list of most dangerous countries for journalists for first time (Reuters)

Religious Buildings on Fire

“But it has survived: While the damage to the interior of the historic building is still uncertain, the fire did not consume Notre-Dame, according to authorities in Paris. The blaze stopped short of the two belfry towers that house the cathedral’s immense bells, the site immortalized by Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. “The worst has been avoided even though the battle is not completely won,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.” Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration (by Kriston Capps and Feargus O’Sullivan for City Lab)

“Footage showing smoke and fire emerging from the roof of a structure known as the Marwani Prayer Room, or Solomon’s Stables, could be seen on social media. The Palestine News Agency, the official outlet of the Palestinian National Authority, cited a guard as saying Monday that “the fire broke out in the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room, and the fire brigade of the Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.” No injuries or damage was reported during the short blaze.” Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque Fire (by Tom O’Connor for Newsweek)

“Most of the victims were killed in three churches where worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services. Three other bombings struck luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, the Kingsbury and the Shangri-La – located in the heart of the capital Colombo, killing at least 35 foreigners. Among the dead were Japanese, Dutch, Chinese, British, American and Portuguese tourists. No immediate claim of responsibility was made for the carnage in a country that was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, a time when bomb blasts in Colombo and elsewhere were common.” Sri Lanka Easter bombings: Mass casualties in churches and hotels (Al Jazeera)

World Politics

“Police statements have several times called the violence “orchestrated”. But PSNI Det Supt Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation, said he did not think media presence affected events. An MTV spokesperson pointed to the PSNI’s statement and said there was “no evidence of any sort to show that the presence of the media on the ground contributed or impacted the situation on the Creggan estate.”” Dissidents accused of stoking Derry riot for Reggie Yates documentary (by Rory Carroll for The Guardian)

“The Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says it intends to change the law to make it harder for refugees to go “asylum shopping”. But legal experts and refugee advocates warn these changes could flout domestic and international law, and ruin Canada’s reputation as a defender of refugees. “I think that the Liberal government has really taken a sharp turn,” says law professor and refugee lawyer Warda Shazadi Meighen. “Canada was really an outlier in the last five years as a country upholding refugee rights in the face of populism… and this will really chip away at that.”” Trudeau takes ‘sharp turn’ away from ‘refugees welcome’ (BBC)

Something Good

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Then you should be reading these recaps on Pajiba.